Israel Expands Settlement Plans

Israel Expands Settlement Plans

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – The proposed budget for the Construction Ministry includes $25 million dollars earmarked for the building of 740 new apartments.  The Construction Ministry budget includes funds to build over 500 apartments in the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem and 240 apartments in the Maaleh Adumim settlement in the West Bank.

At the conference in Annapolis in late November, Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders agreed to renew the 2003 peace roadmap.  In the 2003 roadmap, Israel promised to freeze settlement growth.  Rafi Eitan, the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, told local radio that Israel never promised to halt construction within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, which, according to Israel, includes East Jerusalem which was annexed during the 1967 War.  Also, Israel claims that since that any future agreement would include Maaleh Adumim as a part of an Israeli state, building in that settlement is permitted as well.  Eitan stated that Maaleh Adumim is an “integral part of Jerusalem in any peace accord.”

The international community and Palestinian leadership have expressed disagreement with the settlement building plans.  The announcement comes shortly before another peace meeting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, accused Israel of trying to sabotage the renewed peace efforts.  Erekat called Israel’s move as “destructive”.

In addition, senior Hamas officials signal that the group is prepared to reach a truce with Israel.  Ahmed Yusef, a polical advisor to Ismail Haniya, stated that Hamas is ready to “reach a truce with Israel” so long as the siege on Gaza is lifted and Israel halts it policy of assassinations.  However, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, has ruled out a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, describing the conflict as a “true war”, and that it will continue.

For more information, please see:
AFP – New Israeli Settlement Plans Unveiled on Eve of Peace Talks – 23 December 2007

Al Jazeera – Israel Funds More Settlement Growth – 23 December 2007

Associated Press – Israel Building Plans Could Spur Fury – 23 December 2007

BBC – Israel Confirms Settlement Plans – 23 December 2007

Chicago Tribune – Olmert Rules  Out Truce Talks With Hamas – 23 December 2007

Ha’aretz – Israel Expands Plans to Construct New Homes in E. J’lem, W. Bank – 23 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Israel Plans New Homes on Occupied Land – 23 December 2007

Washington Post – Israel Unveils Settlement Plans on Peace Talks Eve – 23 December 2007

Somalia Receives Additional Peacekeepers

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – 100 peacekeepers from Burundi deployed to the Somalia capital today, only hours after fighting between Islamist rebels and government forces killed at least four civilians.   The deployment of additional peacekeepers has been repeatedly delayed, and the 1,600 Ugandan troops who began work in March have been in desperate need of support.  The peacekeeping force is meant to be at a strength of 8,000. 

Burundi’s government pledged 1,700 troops that were scheduled to deploy in July, but the deployment was repeatedly delayed.  An army spokesman said the rest of the contingent of two battalions of 850 soldiers each should be on the ground within the next two weeks. 

The Ugandans have been restricted to guarding Mogadishu’s sea and air ports and presidential palace, and providing security for top government officials.  Their limited numbers have been unable to stop the increased fighting in the capital, which has led to the deaths of many civilians.  Just last night fierce battles broke out when Islamist insurgents attacked government troops and their Ethiopian allies.  A mortar shell landed in a home, killing two people and another resident was killed in crossfire. 

Somalia has faced lawlessness since 1991 when warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.  There have since been 14 attempts to restore effective rule but the latest has been weakened by the Islamist-led insurgency.   

On Saturday the African Union’s Peace and Security Council issued a statement describing the Somalia conflict as one of the most serious challenges for peace and security on the continent.  The statement called on the international community to provide greater political will and resources.  The fighting has killed an estimated 6,000 people and displaced more than a half million residents. The AU Peace and Security Council have agreed to meet again in mid-January to discuss future plans for the Somalia peacekeeping mission before it expires. 

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Burundi troops join AU in Somalia – 23 December 2007

Reuters – Burundi Peacekeepers deploy in Somali capital – 23 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – 5 Somalis killed in overnight attack; Burundian peacekeepers deploy in Mogadishu – 23 December 2007

VOA News – African Union: Somalia Conflict Threatens Peace and Security in Africa – 23 December 2007

Reuters – AU seeks fresh initiatives to end Somali conflict – 22 December 2007

BRIEF: Ballu Khan Remains in Hospital

SUVA, Fiji — Ballu Khan, the New Zealand business man who was implicated in the attempted assassination plot of interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, was not released from the hospital yesterday as he was originally expected to be.  Khan has been at the Suva Private Hospital for the past few weeks after his skull was fractured and his was broken by Fiji police officials during an interrogation.  While Khan has remained a suspect in the attempted assassination of the interim PM, he has still not been formally charged and the police have not gotten an opportunity to question him due to the extent of his injuries.

QC Peter Williams, Khan’s lawyer, filed civil charges against the interim government over the injuries sustained by Khan.  Williams released a statement yesterday that he believed the $40 million lawsuit was progressing well.  Asked whether he thought that his client could receive a fair hearing, Williams responded, ” that it was essential to have trust in the rule of law”.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Fiji businessman to be released from hospital tomorrow — 20 December 2007

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Khan’s lawsuit progressing well – QC — 21 December 2007

Pacific Magazine — Khan Still in Hospital, Still not Charged over Assassination Claims — 21 December 2007

BRIEF: Ivory Coast Begins Disarmament

TIEBISSOU, Ivory Coast – More than five years after a brief war erupted and split the country into a rebel-controlled north and government-held south, the rebels and government forces have agreed to begin the process of disarmament.  Ceremonies are being held on either side of the ceasefire line today and it is hoped that this will be a significant step towards the planned reunification of the country. 

The warring parties first agreed to a ceasefire several months after the brief war erupted in 2002.  In 2004, the government announced the start of disarmament, but disagreements among the parties have repeatedly delayed the process.  Former enemies President Laurent Gbago and ex-rebel leader Guillaume Soro forged a partnership in March and have worked towards this disarmament.   The process is expected to take three months.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Ivory Coast’s disarmament begins – 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Ivory Coast factions begin disarmament process – 22 December 2007

Reuters – Ivory Coast former foes launch disarmament process – 22 December 2007

AFP – African Union hails progress towards peace in Ivory Coast – 21 December 2007

BRIEF: HRW Sends Letter to Tunisian President to Stop Harassment of Rights Group

TUNIS, Tunisia – Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter on Tuesday to Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to stop state authorities from harassing “unrecognized” rights group.

The “unrecognized” group refers to Tunis-based International Association in Support of Political Prisoners (AISPP). In early December, attorney Samir Ben Amor – AISPP co-founder and steering committee member – was detained by police for his activities within the group. Under Tunisian law, those who are involved in “unrecognized” associations are penalized with prison terms and fines. And AISPP, under Tunisian law definition, is “unrecognized” because the Tunisian authorities have refused to legally recognize the group since its inception five years ago.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said that the Tunisian authorities deny having political prisoners in the country, and that jailing of Ben Amor “only underscores the fact that the authorities harass Tunisians who point out that the government holds political prisoners.”

Ben Amor is currently defending thirty Islamists charged with trying to overthrow the government.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Tunisia court postpones coup bid trail to Dec. 29 – 22 December 2007

Magharebia – HRW protests harassment of rights groups in Tunisia – 19 December 2007

Human Rights Watch – Stop harassing ‘unrecognized’ rights group – 18 December 2007